Last time I wrote a Display Daily about picoprojectors was just after CES, admittedly the premier picoprojector trade show. In this rapidly-changing industry, I thought it was time for an update.
To get the update, I talked to three key players in the industry: Karl Guttag, CTO at Syndiant; Frank Moizio, Manager of DLP Pico Projection at TI; and Dwayne Lum, Product Management Director at MicroVision.
Guttag was especially excited about the use of lasers with Syndiant LCoS, the subject of his distinguished paper at SID. The low étendue of the lasers allows high f/# systems, which remain in focus from a few inches to infinity. In addition, the laser light can be focused onto very small microdisplays, such as the ones Syndiant can manufacture, significantly reducing costs. Guttag said that while the current Syndiant pixel was 5.4µm square, only incremental improvements, not breakthroughs, were needed to reach down toward 4µm.
Also, since the lasers are polarized, the design of the LCoS optical system is simplified and costs are reduced. Lasers are also becoming very efficient, as can be seen in the figure taken from Guttag’s Projection Summit presentation, which he will deliver next week. This high efficiency is a good match for battery-powered systems.
In the short term, Guttag expected to see more laser/phosphor hybrid systems, such as the one Casio is using. He actually saw this as a positive for green direct-emission lasers. Green lasers are based on blue GaN lasers and anything to increase the sales of blue lasers will benefit the R&D people working on green lasers at the same companies.
Moizio, whose responsibilities at TI cover not just picoprojectors but microprojectors as well, was bullish on sales going forward. But not as bullish as some analysts that have been forecasting sales in 2011 for pico/microprojectors as high as 3M units: Moizio thought the 2011 total would be closer to 2M units, up from 1.4M units in 2010. This 2M unit number is gratifyingly close to the forecast Insight Media has made in its recent series of Picoprojector Reports.
Both Moizio and Guttag talked about current and expected sales of picoprojectors embedded into handsets for sale in developing countries such as India. Guttag said sales of these units are on the order of 50K/month, representing a significant fraction of all picoprojector sales. This trend is largely invisible to Western observers, although Insight Media has anticipated it and included it as a factor in our forecasts.
Lum expanded on two recent press releases from MicroVision, which announced sales of the ShowWX+ through the Apple Store in Europe and MicroVision participation in E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo currently going on in Los Angeles. He said one reason why the ShowWX+ is appearing in the European Apple store first is because Europeans are using it for data-intensive corporate tasks such as CRM, PLM and ERP. He feels the 15 lumen output of the ShowWX+ is not much of a limit in this market, since end users are not trying to make 50" video images, they just want images larger than their 4" iPhone or 10" iPad so 2 or 3 people can interact with the data. He said 20" - 24" images were about right for this crowd.
At E3, MicroVision was emphasizing what Lum called "in-motion play applications." In these, the picoprojector and the host game system are used by the game player to interact with the game content. He said the infinite focus of the ShowWX+ was important in this market because the image moved around during the game and showed on both near and distant surfaces as well as curved surfaces. One example he gave was the MotionBeam system from Disney Research, a game system based on a MicroVision projector, an iPod and a special sensor board to help tie the two together.
For complete details on what Guttag, Moizio and Lum had to say, plus an article on Disney’s MotionBeam system, see the upcoming issue of Mobile Display Report.